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London office of US law firm seeks newly qualified solicitor… to work as a paralegal

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Warning signs for NQ job prospects?

A US law firm is recruiting for a paralegal to work in its City of London office — but there’s a catch. The “ideal candidate” will be a newly qualified (NQ) solicitor, despite paralegals not requiring formal legal qualifications.

Legal recruiters Ryder Reid placed the ad earlier this week on behalf of the unidentified Yanks.

It says that “the successful candidate will be joining the firm as a contract paralegal within their award winning funds group. The ideal candidate will ideally be an NQ who has completed a finance seat, or an experienced finance/funds paralegal”.

A tipster who flagged the ad with Legal Cheek called it “obviously absurd, but also perhaps a reflection of the increasingly competitive job market”.

The pandemic has hit some practice areas hard and trainee lawyers were understandably worried about their career prospects even during the first lockdown.

The 2021 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

The worry is that firms become so saturated with applicants that some fully qualified lawyers will be unable to find work as solicitors and take unqualified paralegal roles instead. That, in turn, would squeeze out the non-solicitors with some legal training who would normally snap up paralegal jobs.

So is this a straw in the wind? Well, retention rates for trainee solicitors have held up well so far. Just this week, three City firms announced that they would be keeping on 17 out of 18 trainees between them, while Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith Freehills have both posted retention scores of around 90%.

It could be that US-headquartered firms are just swimming in so much dough that they can afford to pay NQ money for paralegal work. Our Firms Most List shows a plethora of top US players dish out upwards of £130k at NQ level, while partners can pull in excess of £3 million each.

But wannabe lawyers will be watching nervously for any signs that legal recruitment is drying up.

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